A NEW state-of-the art lithium processing plant in Kwinana is set to provide up to 500 jobs during the construction phase and 115 operational jobs when the plant opens towards the end of 2018.
The $400 million plant is being built and operated by Chinese company Tianqi Lithium, processing spodumene from its majority owned Greenbushes mine near Bunbury.
Tianqi Lithium Corporation chief executive officer Vivian Wu said the company had chosen Australia to diversify its lithium production base because it was close to the mine and was a reliable business jurisdiction.
Tianqi Lithium Australia general manager Phil Thick said it was pleasing to be able to process Western Australia’s raw minerals into value added product in Western Australia, before they were shipped offshore.
“The construction and operation of the Tianqi Lithium processing plant doesn’t just create local jobs on-site, it will provide considerable opportunities for suppliers of gas, power, transport and chemical reagents to name just a few,” Mr Thick said.
Premier Colin Barnett turned the first sod of soil at a ceremony at the project site in Kwinana today, along with Tianqi Lithium Corporation chairman Jiang Weiping, with construction starting later this month.
“This project is a major development for Western Australia and will boost the local economy in Kwinana, with up to 500 jobs to be created during the construction process,” Mr Barnett said.
“More than 115 employees will be needed once the project becomes operational toward the end of 2018.
“The project will also generate benefits for the South-West , with production likely to double at the Greenbushes mine, near Bunbury, to supply the Kwinana plant.”
He said the manufacturing plant was a significant step in the maturity of the state’s resources sector.
Global demand for lithium is rising because it is used in renewable energy storage and electric car batteries.
Lands Minister Terry Redman said Tianqi had recently finalised a lease with LandCorp for up to 49 years, over a 20ha site in the Western Trade Coast.
“The proximity to vital infrastructure and support services and the port and skilled labour provided by the Western Trade Coast, were significant factors in the State’s success in attracting this project,” Mr Redman said.
Kwinana Mayor Carol Adams welcomed the plant and hoped it could be a catalyst to broaden industrial growth throughout the region.
She said it would also provide a desperately needed boost to local employment prospects.
“The Western Trade Coast is the ideal home for Tianqi and this state-of-the art industrial precinct provides a rare and unique set of infrastructure, services and more importantly partnership opportunities,” she said.
State Development Minister Bill Marmion said the Liberal National Government had worked closely with Tianqi’s Australian subsidiary to secure the investment for WA.
“This is an important manufacturing project which adds value to natural resources development in Western Australia and increases our capacity to produce higher value products,” Mr Marmion said.
The plant will be the most advanced facility of its kind in the world and could produce 24,000 tonnes of lithium hydroxide annually.
It will be used in the manufacture of lithium batteries, which have an advanced energy storage capacity.
MSP Engineering has led the feasibility study and will be the head contractor for the project.
Ms Wu said local contractors would construct the plant, with all design and construction being undertaken to Australian Standards and complying with the latest environmental and safety standards.
Tianqi’s parent company, Tianqi Lithium Corporation, is the world’s largest lithium chemicals producer from spodumene minerals, a lithium rich mineral used to manufacture lithium chemicals.